Friday, January 30, 2009

A Peaceful Presence

Yesterday I was doing a bit of blog reading and read how a prayer was said over this particular blogger's unborn child, asking God for the baby to be a "peaceful presence" in this family's home.

After being touched by such a sentiment, I immediately questioned why I never prayed such a thought over little Miss E. while she still resided (quite peacefully) in my tummy. Things might be a lot quieter around here had I thought to submit such a petition.

E. had a bit of a loud day yesterday, something not too unusual around her. She is all spunk and we just adore her. The sentences are flying out of her mouth, along with her fair share of whining and fussing. Bless her heart. Lately I have really been telling her that she is starting to become a big girl, who can understand and communicate with others. Last night after her usual bedtime routine of a book and repertoire of songs, I sat her up in my lap for a little woman-to-woman chat.

It was hard to be serious, because E. was sporting her own serious expression that makes me want to giggle. I told her that in the morning she needed to try really hard to use her big girl words, as opposed to fussing, to talk to me and that I would try really hard to use my most patient ears to listen to her. And we might somehow survive these toddler years together.

Such a talk was met with silence for a moment.

She then screwed up her little face, looked me straight in the eye, and said, "P-eas (please)".

I am guessing "peas" is her stab at big girl communication. I'll take it. She was much better today in the fussing department, so I am pretending that our little chat made all the difference.

And although I missed out on the chance to pray for her as an unborn child to be a peaceful presence in our house, I have started praying such a little prayer anyway....over myself. I figure why expect others to be beacons of peace unless I have stepped up to the plate myself.


I think I have mentioned our reward chart for Isaac before in a post, but have never shown a picture on the blog.

Here it is, in all it's Disney glory:

I made this a few months ago, when I really felt Isaac was having a bit of too much Independence with compliance (meaning he was being just a tad rotten...just a tad). I hated saying the same thing repeatedly to him without seeing any results. I then created the board and he knows what needs to be done and gets it done. Currently we don't use this board anymore, however it sits in the kitchen in full view for when we will need to pull it out again. I really try to phase certain rewards out for expected actions or behaviors once we have created a steady pattern (this idea is a whole post in itself...perhaps one day). It is a pretty standard reward board of chores/attitudes we would like for him to show or do and chances to earn a small prize if such things are done.

Above is the list of posted expectations of our house. I titled them "expectations" because we see these as the social norms at casa de phillips. These are behaviors/actions/words we all need to exhibit on a daily basis. These have no pictures...mainly because I am a terrible artist and hate searching for clipart...but I feel that is okay despite the fact our children do not read. These are concepts we discuss frequently, so as to make sure everyone knows what is expected of them.

Question? Comments?

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Day...Part 2

Anyone know how much law school is costing these days?

Tobe and I have known for quite the while that we might possibly have a future litigator in our house and often joke about saving up for law school as well as college. Isaac attempts to negotiate almost everything, sometimes in ways that are so clever we don't quite catch on that he is negotiating until the moment has passed.

It is a bit scary knowing that one's three year old might very well outsmart you in a few short years.

Today it became apparent that we might need to be saving for two tickets to law school....seems that Little Miss E. is quickly following in her brother's footsteps.

"Ice Chaos 2009" (or whatever the local news has tagged this storm as being) struck overnight and we were once again housebound. Toys were flying left and right out of closets and off-shelves as a particular little boy and girl attempted to entertain themselves. We are pretty vigilant about cleaning up one toy completely before getting another out (see my toy storage system here), mainly because we don't have a lot of space and because I get a bit antsy when I think we have lost pieces to a toy.

Today Evelyn wanted to play with her tea set (which usually involves dumping the entire contents out, taking two sips of pretend tea, and then going on about her day), but was informed she would need to clean up the dolls she was playing with first before I would open the tea set.

She batted those long eyelashes and said, "He-p ("help"), Mommy, He-p". Such a request was not met because the girl is quite capable to tossing a few dolls in a plastic container.

There was a bit of whining, a bit of fussing, and a bit of complaining....until her big eyes sparked and she ran to her room.

Evelyn then came marching proudly back into the living room, carting a picnic basket (which she can open by herself...unlike the container holding the tea set) that contains a metal cup and plate, smiled sweetly at me and said, "Tea. Mommy?"

Law school isn't that expensive, is it?

We did survive the ice day today without anyone going too bonkers (mainly me...I don't do well with confinement). There was some disappointment over not being able to go play in the "snow" but everyone had a good time this morning despite my refusal to let a bronchitis-recovering little boy and a sniffling little girl stomp around on patches of ice. Tobe was able to hang around for a few hours this morning, which was quite nice.
After naps, we ventured out to Wal-Mart to scoop up some pictures ordered for Tobe's office. I am going to be bold and proclaim that Wal-Mart can host its fair share of interesting individuals on a normal day. However, on a "snow" day it can really host some intriguing people.
For example, the woman carting her dog around in a baby sling.
Or the older couple blocking the check-out lane due to a very public disagreement over one of their purchases.
And finally, the cutest little blond boy singing "Barack Obama" repeatedly from the back of a shopping cart for a solid five minutes.
Don't know where that boy's mother was but perhaps she and his father might want to tone done the political banter at the supper table.
At least he wasn't giving his diatribe about Russia....
A few pictures from our "snow" day:
If you have preschool children who are interested in trains, I encourage you to check out Fisher Price's GeoTrax. They are greatness! Both kids can snap the track together and it stays together even when one's sister sits on it repeatedly. This was by far the toy of choice today. We played with it for hours.

We also had a bit of a costume party this morning.
Present was one train conductor and one lady in a purple boa and pink slippers.
Isaac and his bedhead

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Snow Day!

I remember one year in elementary school when my little hometown was struck by a series of snow/ice storms over about a two weeks span. If memory serves me correct, these storms hit directly after Christmas break that year.

School was cancelled for about two weeks.

At the time, it seemed to be nothing short of a miracle. No school, an abundance of Christmas toys to enjoy, and mounds of snow to stomp around in.

Now as I look back upon that time I simply mutter, "Bless my mother's heart." How did she keep her sanity with three kids (and various neighborhood children) underfoot in such weather?

Today is a snow day here at casa de phillips, albeit there is not any snow nor is there really any ice. But we have decided to follow local officials advisement and stay tucked inside today.

Such local officials don't spend much time indoors in the winter with small children when they advise such things, do they?

Typically Isaac attends preschool on Tuesday mornings, but Tobe and I made the decision to keep him home this morning due to the weather and to the fact that he is still recovering from bronchitis. We have to navigate a few highways to get Isaac to his school, which also happens to be situated atop a steep narrow driveway. I had images of our little car sliding backwards down that drive in the predicted ice or of having to park the car at the bottom of the hill and lug both kids to the top to simply drop Isaac off at school. Neither option sounded exciting, so preschool did not happen for Isaac this morning.
Considering he has been discussing Russia at the dinner table lately, I think missing one day won't hurt him terribly.

Originally I had planned on stopping by my doctor's office for some blood work after taking Isaac to school. I attempt to avoid taking children with me to the doctor whenever possible, but I had figured one child would be more manageable than the two together. Since preschool did not happen this morning, I brought both kids with me into the doctor's office, figuring we could all survive a 15 minute blood draw.

Let me first explain that before anyone ever piles out of our car upon arriving at a destination, some sort of "pep" talk is given. Tobe and I always explain what we are doing at said location, the behaviors that are expected out of every member of our family, and reminders of what may happen to those who choose not to show expected behaviors. So this morning, while parked in front of the doctor's office, the children and I went over the expected behaviors that needed to be exhibited while Mommy was having blood taken.

Such a talk apparently inspired a whole series of questions from my ever-curious son:

"Why are we here?"

"Who is your doctor?"

"What does she look like?"

"Why are there three doors?"

"Who is that lady?"

After attempting to explain that this was indeed my OBGYN (I used the term "baby doctor"), I then unexpectedly entered the dangerous territory of saying, "She was the one who helped you be born from Mommy's tummy at the hospital."

My ears are still ringing from the questions such a sentence brought on.

Isaac was still very much a baby (a few weeks older than E. currently is) when Evelyn was born, so the whole pregnancy/baby/ birthing thing is just now starting to stir some curiosity within his little brain. Such a interesting time.

Immediately upon entering the surprisingly full waiting room, both kids went a bit crazy, despite our car conference held just two minute prior. This particular doctor has a large aquarium and we just watched "Finding Nemo" over the weekend. Shouts of "Look there's Nemo!" or "Dor-eeeeeee!" were bouncing off the walls. The calm atmosphere of the waiting room was quickly disturbed by a particular little boy and little girl.

After quietly hissing instructions for everyone to be seated and passing out a light snack, the two seemed to calm down a bit. As I walked to the receptionist's desk, I managed to catch some glances from a couple seated quietly on the couch waiting for their appointment. The wife was obviously pregnant and both were staring at my children with looks of horror.

I am assuming this to be their first little blessing and they have yet to discover that one day they too will have children they must remove from public places in mid-tantrum or children who will pluck an abandoned french fry off the playscape at McDonald's and plop in in their mouths with glee.

Parenting is so glamorous.

We were fortunate enough only to wait for a few minutes (yet still enough time to share the storyline of "Finding Nemo" with the entire waiting room) before being ushered back to the lab. Evelyn immediately started crying upon entering the lab, until she finally realized this was my appointment and not hers. Isaac was quite curious as to what was going to take place and desperately wanted to touch several vials of various substances. He stood patiently in the doorway, greeting a variety of nurses and patients as the walked past. He did get quite the chuckle from others when right before my needle prick he shouted, "Don't be afraid, Mommy! Just be brave like me!"

He then felt the need to take a close inspection of my collected blood (sorry) and pronounced it to be "cool." I am nothing if not entertaining.

After collecting our things and scooping up piles of discarded cheerios and goldfish (I feel as if we leave a trail of such things in our wake at all times), we left the doctor's office and returned to the safety of our car.

We then carefully navigated the streets absent of predicted ice and arrived home.

And...the clock read 8:42am.

I don't know if it was the weather or the messed-up schedule or the cycle of the moon, but the kids were loopy today. Just plain loopy.

It was around 10:21am that I decided we could never live in a place that has ice/snow/sleet on a regular basis because I might lose my mind.

It was around 11:17am that I seriously considered investigating properties for sale in San Diego because they have perfect weather about 359 days out of the year.

We survived the day, with minimal battle wounds, and my sanity still appears to be in place. More ice is predicted for tomorrow.

Wonder if it is too late to book a flight to sunny California????
At some point this morning we did a Valentine's door craft. Can you tell E. lost interest and someone had to finish hers for her?
I know you are all jealous of the mad photography skills here. I forgot to snap pictures before we taped the tigers to the doors. Displaying her Arkansas rootsWe ate at the American Girl Doll store this past weekend courtesy of Papa (and Nana).
Tiger was Isaac's guest.

Evelyn with her Bitty Baby, Baby Kate

Monday, January 26, 2009

Free Mustard for All!

Saturday morning I managed to somehow roll out of bed (could be because a certain three year old had found his way into the bed and proceeded to wiggle around like a fish out of water....thus interrupting my warm, cozy haven), throw on some clothes, and hit the grocery store early, with the car thermometer reading a mere 32 degrees.


However, the early bird did indeed get the worm that morning because I was able to save the most I ever have in coupons/store rewards. The 16 year old check-out boy was not very impressed with my overall savings, which I was tempted to explain to him in a medium he might understand such as how many songs could be purchased on iTunes with such savings, but I was thrilled.

Aren't you just dying to know how much I saved?

First, take a look at our menu for this week here. I was a bit nervous about staying under the $100 per week budget, mainly because my meat supply was incredibly low in our freezer and I knew I would be purchasing quite a bit of chicken/fish/etc. for the next two weeks. Savvy shopping using store circulars helped solve this problem.

Because I wanted to stay under $100 per week (remember I grocery shop every two weeks), I did hit two stores in my quest for the lowest price possible. Fortunately the stores are close to one another, with a Starbucks placed strategically on the trip home (Giftcard was used. Have I mentioned my 20 month old can recite my Starbucks order now? Scary.).

If you want to see what I purchased during this grocery trip, head over here.

Now, drum roll please......

This week I saved $75.20 by using coupons and a store rewards card!

Now, I must say that $75 could quite possibly buy me two new pairs of some fancy trouser jeans that are on sale at Banana Republic...

Obviously, I was thrilled to save so much and keep our weekly grocery budget under $100. Part of the thing that thrilled me the most was being able to get mustard, BBQ Sauce, and pepperoni for free. Free, people! All because I cut a few coupons and spent about ten minutes reviewing the sales ad....and someone gave me free mustard!

I might just very well proclaim this a January miracle!

Anyway...anyone else out there with some stories of great savings at the grocery store lately?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

In my quest to Feed Our Family of Four on $100 or less a week, I went grocery shopping yesterday morning with a great plan of attack. I cannot wait to share the details of my shopping and the extreme amount of money I saved this week (an all time record). is late, so such a post will be coming tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Where's the Spinach?

I am not a big connoisseur of any type of leafy green vegetable.

Quite honestly, green beans and zucchini are about as far as I am willing to venture into the whole green veggie scene.

While in Kenya one summer, I was often invited into other's homes to share a meal with them. The invitation was always welcome, the meal a bit feared. A traditional meal in Kenya for those without many pennies to pinch often consisted of chipati (like nan or tortillas...quite delicious), ugali (think rice and wall paper paste combined), and stewed greens. Lots and lots of stewed greens.

The minutes before these dinners often found me silently praying that I would be able to swallow the greens and ugali without displaying any outward appearance of repulsion. I knew my hosts most likely would not eat at the dinner, instead wanting all the food to go to their guests. I also knew food would be sparse the next few days for these lovely people, as they had used up their supplies to feed me.

The Lord indeed answers prayers as I was able to eat large mounds of greens on those occasions without having any serious stomach issues.

Here at casa de phillips I attempt to hide our leafy green veggies inside casseroles or other dishes, mainly so I can trick myself. Friday night is typically pizza night around here. Tonight we will be feasting on Spinach, Chicken, and Cheese Calzone and I thought I might share this easy recipe with you!

2 1/2 c. flour
2 tbsp. oil
1 c. warm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 pkg. yeast

In large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water; add flour, oil, sugar and salt. Mix with wooden spoon until dough loses stickiness. Set aside for 15 minutes, then roll flat to about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thickness.

1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup provolone cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
a bit of minced garlic
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

Mix above ingredients together, spread on dough, and roll up. Place rolled calzone on greased cookie sheet or baking stone (my preference) and cook for 15 minutes in 400 degree oven until golden brown.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Purse Expose

I am sure many of you have been unable to sleep since I stated I would soon be revealing the innards of my purse. Sorry to have kept everyone waiting for such riveting information.

Here is what my purse looks like from the outside:Nothing fancy, just a basic black bag. The particular brand is "Emilie M." that I often find at TJ Maxx. I like this brand because the bags are big (I rarely carry a diaper bag anymore now that the children are older), inexpensive, and come in a variety of styles and colors (I also have a red and funky shade of green bag from this line as well).

Now the interesting is everything I pulled out of my purse this morning as of 9:12am.The contents included:
*One green pen
*Two Sesame Street-themed watercolor pens
*One tiny board book
*One lid to a piece of Tupperware (Tupperware container was not in bag..not sure how lid wound up in bag)
*One GI Joe figure (popular with both children)
*Purple brush
*Set of car keys
*Small toy car
*Nail File
*Three lone nickels
*Three bobby pins (I have hair issues)
*One hair rubber band
*Unopened package of Toy Story stickers
*Package of Goldfish crackers
*Three boxes of raisins (Evelyn has raisin issues)
*Pair of Evelyn's sunglasses
*Sesame Street Watercolor book
*Small stuffed dog
*Two packages of tissue
*Buzz Lightyear notepad
*Random, unopened toy from a kid's meal
*Make-up bag holding two lipsticks and a pressed powder compact
*Cell Phone
*About 20 crushed goldfish crackers
*Approximately 11 used Kleenex tissues (Not pictured for obvious reasons)

Why am I carrying all this around on a daily basis? I really need some sort of purse that looks good on the outside and has specific pockets for each item, thus preventing me from absently stuffing things in my bag and carting unneeded items (Tupperware lids) around for weeks on end.

Anyone care to share what odd things they have in their purse?


Here is Miss E. at the park yesterday. I do greatly enjoy this picture because is captures that "spunk" we see so often. She was angry because our fair city had the nerve to bring out loud bulldozers and perform a park overhaul while she was attempting to enjoy nature.
PJ Day was yesterday at school. Isaac sported his Buzz Lightyear PJ's and socks, topping off the outfit with his car houseshoes. I hope his teachers greatly enjoyed how skinny his frame looks when wearing tight PJ's and large shoes. Such a sight just melts my heart. He was thrilled with the notion of wearing pajamas all day.

Evelyn enjoying Tuesday's activities. She can correctly identify President Obama now, however got confused with a local car dealership commercial that has a presidential look-alike in it. I attempted to explain that the president does not sell used cars as a side job, but she is intent that both men are the "Pres-dent".

Both children are under the weather. Isaac has a persistent cough and fever, so I decided a trip to the pediatrician was necessary. There are about 239 things I can think of that I would rather do than going to the pediatrician's office so I avoid it until completely necessary. Today's visit was not excruciatingly painful. We only waited about 40 minutes to see the doctor, Evelyn only screamed about 1/2 the time, and the staff only called once after I left about conflicting payment options.
While waiting to be seen, another mother and her two boys entered the office. The boys were a bit rowdy, one of them attempting to tell Isaac he was bigger and older (Isaac set the record straight by stating he is 3 and 1/2 years of age...that boy was a mere 3 years of age. Also, Isaac was taller by a good 3 inches. Ugh, I hate rude kids). After such nonsense was settled, the boy then proceeded to pull an iphone out of his mom's purse and watch movies on it (He did share it with Isaac, which was nice. Guess he got over the whole "bigger and older" deal.).
I thought it was quite generous of the mom to share her iphone with her child....until she pulled ANOTHER one out of her bag and began texting someone.
Who has two iphones? Is on the kid's and the other the moms?
I discreetly hid the play phone (received once in a kid's meal) Isaac and Evelyn had been fiddling with to avoid anymore competitions with this kid.
We eventually saw the doctor. Isaac was diagnosed with bronchitis and Evelyn with a potential sinus infection. Fun times.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 20, 2009

The hand right in front of my face.

Sometimes that is about all I can very own hand directly planted in front of my face. My own little world awhirl with parenting issues, attempts to keep grocery budgets low, stabs at being a good wife/friend/daughter, and overall just maintaining my small sense of balance.

There are some times when I manage to peek between my fingers, past that hand planted firmly in front of my face. I see a community, a nation, and sometimes even a world bustling by. I glimpse snippets of other's struggles, of global problems, of catastrophic events. But usually it is only a snippet, because although the images spotted between those cracks in my fingers are alarming at times and desire my attention, I usually revert back to focusing all my attention to that lone hand planted directly in front of my face.

Our country woke up this morning to a monumental day. I know some greeted this day with great emotion, finding it amazing to believe a President has finally been elected who was not an upper-class white male. Others met the day with apprehension, unsure of the hub-bub surrounding our new leader of this nation. There are likely a few who did not even take note of the events of the day, because the placement of a new Commander in Chief meant nothing in their own little world. Most likely we all faced today with our own individual hands planted firmly in front of our face, viewing the history of this inauguration solely through it's direct impact upon "me, me, me".

It appears to be a period in time when our country is a bit bruised, a bit battered, and a bit shaky. Financial woes surround us, environment issues loom over us, and fear of others does not evade us. Yet we continue to scurry about with our own hands planted firmly in front of our faces, seeking only to alleviate our own pains and our own woes.

Over breakfast this morning, I attempted to explain what was taking place in our nation's capital today. My children are only 1 1/2 and 3 years of age, not near the stage of being able to comprehend the significance of an African American president being sworn into office, yet I wanted to slowly remove their own chubby, sticky hands away from their little faces and show them a world beyond the one they know. I wanted them to know that not everybody is treated kindly in this world, that others are looked down upon simply because of their race or economic status or religion. That despite the fact our Lord clearly stated, "I so loved the world that I sent my one and only Son." that many of His people often perceive that verse as reading, "I so loved *your exact race/religion/group* of people that I sent my one and only Son...". I wanted them to know that although discrimination of every kind has been commonplace in the past in our nation and in our world, that hopefully their generation will see beyond such issues as religion, color, gender, organization affiliation and look at the person for who he/she is....the person who God sent his Son to save just as He did for every other member of the human race. I wanted them to know that although we live in middle-class suburbia America, we must understand that the majority of the world does not function in such a manner.

It would do our communities, our nation, and our world a bit of good if we all peeled that hand away from our face and took a good look around.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Feeding our Family: Week 2

In the never-ending quest to save a few pennies, I have set a goal for myself to attempt to feed my family for under $100 a week for the next four weeks.

This "quest" sounded a lot more fun back when it was just an idea floating around in my head and not something I was actually attempting to make happen.

To read my post from the first week (which was just last week), click here.

Because I grocery shop only once every two weeks, I do not have a grocery list/amount to share today. However, you can check out this week's menu by going here.

Last week, I only made one additional trip to the grocery store and that was to pick up some frozen fruit and yogurt for smoothies. I had planned this trip in advance, knowing that I had a gift card to this particular store and that the fruit would be on sale. Due to the gift card, I spent no extra money out of our account.

Also, we ate out once as a family for dinner and once with friends for lunch. Not too bad.

Anyone else do really well with their shopping this week and want to share the details?

I know I promised an expose on the dreadful state of my purse, but that is going to have to wait until tomorrow, dear reader. Winter Boot camp started up this morning and I am beat. I also have a lovely carpet burn on my left elbow due to a minor accident when I was crawling across the gym floor on my back this morning at 5:37am and my arm slipped off the mat and onto the carpet. I don't think I have had carpet burn since I was five.
Purse expose coming, I promise.
Cute children stories to share as well.
Until then, goodnight!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Chasing Pennies

The phillips family did a bit of shopping (just a groceries however) this weekend and I thought some might be interested in my finds.

Below is $216 worth of clothing from Gymboree:After sale prices were taken and after redeeming Gymbucks earned back in early December, I paid only $48 for these clothes. That is some big time savings. The majority of these clothes are for next fall/winter.

Evelyn accompanied me into Gymboree while the boys stayed behind in the car (why do I know this will be a life-long pattern for our family?). Some wise person planned the layout of Gymboree stores with mommies in mind when they chose to place televisions and small chairs in the backs of all their stores. Thank you, to whomever developed this shopping strategy.

Miss E. was happily watching television with some other little girls while I browsed the sales racks (with one eye on her and the other on the greatly discounted price tags). I soon heard a very familiar voice insistently saying, "El-lyn's dress. El-lyn's dress."

I walked around the clothes rack to find my daughter angrily pulling on a dress a fellow shopper had in her hand.

The shopper didn't find it terribly amusing when I attempted to explain that my 20 month old has a keen eye for fashion and thought the dress the lady was holding was actually her dress, because Evelyn happens to have the same one at home.

Although this lady was not impressed by Evelyn's (or "El-lyn" as she calls herself) ability to take charge of a shopping situation, I was incredibly proud. Black Friday should be a really fun event with her in a few years.

Gymboree was not the only place where I was able to score some good bargains this weekend. The fine department store of Harolds is closing their doors forever and today was the last day of their clearance sale. Although I typically do not shop in Harolds (the prints just have never looked good on me for some reason) I decided to take a peek inside since everything was marked down to 90% off original prices.

There were only two racks of ladies clothing (everything else was GONE) remaining and the majority of it was unfortunately fabric prints that I could never pull off.

However, I did find this skirt for $2 (normally $90):

And this dress for $30 (Normally $300):
At the moment I am not entirely sure as to where I will wear the above dress (anyone planning a cocktail party soon?), but I really could not pass up a $300 dress on 90% clearance. After I pulled this one from the rack, the lady behind me took the last three dresses. She is planning on selling them on EBay for the original price.
While looking at the two lone sales racks, the older gentleman next to me turned and asked, "Your 23, right?"
I really had to fight the urge to answer, "Why, yes I am!" and instead went with the more subdued answer of "I used to be."
Apparently he wanted to know if the skirt he was holding was something a 23 year old would like. Although sporting a wedding ring, I doubt the 23 year old he was shopping for was his wife or his daughter.
Wonder if that 23 year old knows that her gifts are coming from the 90% off rack?
Tomorrow I will be back with this week's menu and a report on whether or not we have spent any extra money on groceries since my shopping trip last Sunday.
Also, I have decided that I need to be honest and reveal what the inside of my purse look like. For someone with a strong need to keep things organized and orderly, my purse is a disaster. It is quite comical what I am toting around on a regular basis. stay tuned.
On a serious note, there is a family in need of prayers for their baby girl. I have been reading Kelly's blog for quite some time, starting mainly because she is a fellow Arkansan and I felt a bit nostalgic reading about her love for the Hogs and talk of my home state. I have followed her blog through a struggle with infertility and then through her much-desired pregnancy. She delivered a sweet baby girl on Friday. Unfortunately the baby is in critical condition and is in need of some serious prayers. Check out her story and send up a quick prayer for her little one.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Excitement Abounds

It is a pretty exciting day over here at casa de phillips.

To begin with, after showering and drying my hair I got all dressed up in one of my husband's finest sweatshirts from college. "Finest" meaning that there are no obviously holes. Yeah, I look pretty good today and fairly hip with my faded blue garb on.

Despite pleas over breakfast to head out to the local Bounce House establishment (affectionately known as "That Jump Place" around here)...which were shot down because we were just there yesterday...I managed to stir up some excitement about the idea of playing Play-Doh in the kitchen while Mommy cleans.

After the clearing away of dishes, making of beds, and dressing of children, Play Doh Fest 2009 began. At first my two little ones were a bit sad ol Mommy wasn't going to stick around to pick up lost pieces of doh or attempt to make tiny blue animals, but they warmed to the idea. Must have been the standard talk of "I didn't experience hours of labor with half-functioning epidurals to provide each of you with a sibling just for the two of you to not play together" that did the trick. Anyway, play-doh was cut, smooshed, and rolled with only one fight breaking out over who got to hold the apparently-beloved orange plate (Mommy ended up with it).

When the excitement of Play-Doh began to wan, we moved on to helping Mommy clean. The assigned task was removing the toys from the kids' bathtub so it could be scrubbed. Only one child managed to actually fall in the waterless tub and one managed to dump a cup of dirty abandoned water on his foot, so it proved to be a successful chore.

It was during the fuss that I heard some noises outside and glanced out E.'s window to spot someone moving into the house across the street. I must confess I harbor a bit of an 80 year old nosey lady inside me and proceeded to (discreetly) peer through the blinds in hopes of catching glimpses of our new neighbors, looking for signs of small children inhabiting the home as well. No tricycles or cribs were spotted, possibly due to the fact these new neighbors seemed to have hired a professional moving company who wrapped everything in heavy blankets.


Despite the secrecy of the blankets, I continued to peer out the window every few minutes attempting to "know" our new neighbors just a bit more. I am almost positive no one noticed the peering of eyes coming from across the street.

And just in case my cover was blown, I acted as if I were giving the blinds a good dusting while I peered.

The morning wound down with a rousing game of "Animal Scramble", a Christmas present I promised we could open after the cleaning was finished (*Note: We don't usually open all packaging from Christmas/Birthday toys at one time. It is a bit overwhelming. I slowly ration them out over a few weeks so each toy can be enjoyed. I know this won't always work, but it makes things simpler at this point).

We found the game to be fun and could be played by both children. However I am a bit worried about the hearing of Isaac and Evelyn's generation because the talking portion of the game is LOUD (just like lots of other toys) and the manufacturers did not seem to necessitate the need for a volume control.

I am contemplating sending them a letter of thanks for this oversight, complete with a ten hour recording of the sounds of their game playing repeatedly.

After lunch (Evelyn is on a eating strike....she hasn't really eaten supper all this week and now is refusing lunch), books, answering 27 more random questions in a span of three minutes by a certain little boy, and hugs and kisses both kids went down for naps.

The life of a stay-at-home mom in freezing temperatures is pretty glamorous, wouldn't you say?

Anyone else have such an exciting morning?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

She's Got A Way About Her


Bless her sweet little 20 month old heart.

She could be the reason I have to eventually begin dying this mop of hair on my head....her spunkiness might really inspire the grays to be begin popping out all over.

She has been a bit more "spunkier" than usual as of late, possibly due to some growing pains and perhaps due to a cold she seems to have picked up this week. I keep reminding myself that this so-called spunk of hers will likely mean she will never fall prey to peer-pressure nor will any young boy ever break her little heart.

I also keep reminding myself I can eventually send her the bill for my hair colorist the minute she gets a job.

The "spunk" might seem a bit "spunkier" because her vocabulary is tremendous and sentences are flowing from her mouth. Although such verbal "spunk" can be trying, it often provides a bit of humor to the situation.

For example, on Tuesday I was preparing lunch while E. played in the living room (Isaac was off learning at preschool). I popped my head into the doorway and cheerfully asked Evelyn if she wanted chicken (her favorite) or pasta to eat.

She looked up at me, serious and stern, and said, "No. Candy, Mommy."

Bless her heart...and my hair.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Confessions of a Frugal Shopoholic

The moment the sonogram technician proclaimed, "It's a Girl!" (and my husband pumped his fist in the air), I instantly began planning her wardrobe. Although putting little outfits on Isaac had been sweet, one can never get terribly excited about a wardrobe of various polo shirts and jean combinations (with the exception of this shirt).

As I shopped in my head (the cheapest way to shop) upon hearing the news a baby girl was to be joining our family, I had visions of a closet filled with smocked dresses, personalized jumpers, and rows and rows of bows.

Then I did some real shopping and quickly realized that should my daughter's closet be so fortunate as to hold such beauties, then I was going to need to get a paper route or start mowing lawns to afford such a wardrobe.

Being the thrifty person that I can be when prompted, I slowly developed a shopping strategy:

1. I have a price limit of what I will or will not pay for items.

For example, I never spend over $30 on a dress or outfit for Evelyn. I never spend over $12 on things like pants, jeans, or leggings. I like to keep shirts under the $10 price (doesn't always happen). Knowing how much I will spend before I walk through the doors of a store prevent me from going a bit crazy when clothing my kids.

2. I shop consignment stores and sales frequently.

If you only have boys, then consignment stores/sales likely will not do you any good. I have found boy's stuff is pretty worn once you get out of the baby sizes. However, such stores can be an excellent place to find new or barely used girls' clothing (especially dresses) for a good price. Most of these places only sell clothing that is no more than 2-3 years old, which means your child will look just like everyone else (but for a better price).

Consignment stores are EXCELLENT places to purchase new hair bows. The prices are tolerable but the selection almost makes me weep with joy. Because I could possibly go just a tad crazy with the hair bows, I attempt to buy styles that can go with several outfits. Therefore the $4 I just plunked down for some ribbon and a cheap clip does not seem so drastic. (See more about how to keep hair bows in little ones hair at the bottom of this post)

3. I am brand-specific.

There are certain brands of clothes I buy because I know they are durable. Also, if you have shopped the girls section lately at discount stores you might have noticed they are modeling little one's clothing after things someone's teenager might wear. That look is not for our house. In order to be brand-specific, I stay informed about store's clearance sales via email so I can be ready when clothes prices are being slashed.

4. I buy clothes a season (or two) ahead.

I buy clothes (when on super-sale) for the next season for each child. My kids run relatively true to size, so I can predict what size they will be wearing in upcoming seasons. Currently Evelyn has a size 3T Strausburg silk green dress just waiting for her in her was super cheap and purchased over a year ago. However, I am dying to put it on her and wonder if the day will ever actually arrive when she can sport this frock.

I have also been known to buy shoes in advance. If one should look back at some of our older pictures, it might appear as if Isaac wore the same shoes for over a year. Actually one time we were shopping and found some New Balance tennis shoes greatly discounted. I purchased all three pairs the store had (they were in different sizes obviously). When Isaac outgrew one pair, I had another waiting eagerly in his closet. I was a tad sad the day that we finally had to retire that last pair of tennis shoes.

5. EBay is my friend.

EBay is where I get the majority of Evelyn's smocked dresses. When I first realized that smocked bishop dress in stores usually start at $70, I about cried. Then I hopped on EBay and found dresses galore for reasonable prices (unless paired against a crazy bidder). I have a specific store with whom I do my smocked dress bidding and never bid higher than my price limit. Because I do not want this store name linked to my blog, I will refrain from saying it. However, email me (link on left) and I will share it if you are interested.

6.I remind myself that it does not really matter at all.
In the end, I remind myself that the majority of the world does not live in the materialistic bubble that middle-class America finds themselves entwined inside with on a consistent basis. There are too many mothers in this world worried about how they are going to feed their children that day for me to become too concerned about how cute my babies look. I believe presenting a respectable appearance (clean face and clothes, combed hair) is important, but I know whether or not my kids were cute as little dolls on a particular day does not matter at all.

What are your tips for clothing children? Anyone out there crafty enough to actually sew your own clothes?


Finally, here is a hair bow tip:

I was beyond frustrated with bows slipping out of E.'s fine, straight hair about five minutes after securing them on her head. I had read that one could glue textured shelf liner to the actual clip to keep slippage from occurring, but I just didn't feel like cutting out tiny pieces of rubber and attempting to glue it to a small silver clip (and would likely just get hot glue strings all over the bow). Then I discovered if you attached several of the tiny baby rubber bands to the clip, the bow won't slip. Hallelujah!
Here is Miss E. hosting a tea party with her newest baby

***All the outfits on Evelyn in these photos were purchased at a consignment sale***

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Feeding our Family: Week 1

As every boy scout can tell you, one of the basic keys of life is to "Plan Ahead."

This is very important when attempting to maintain a grocery budget and feed ones family something other than Ritz Crackers and instant processed cheese.

(Although...can you imagine the cheers your family would give if you skipped the brussel sprouts and whipped out fake cheese and crackers? You would be a hero.)

Every two weeks, I sit down after the kids are tucked safely in their beds for the evening and plan out what we are going to eat. I construct a detailed grocery list based on that menu and on other items we happen to be running low on at the time. Check out my Grocery Shopping 101 post and also take some time to read a potential list of items found in a well-stocked pantry, courtesy of Everyday Food Storage.

This week's menu can be checked out here.

My itemized list of items purchased at two grocery stores (Wal-Mart for the majority of items and Tom Thumb for specific fruits, meat, and to hit up their juice sale) may be viewed here.

You might notice that my grocery list contains things that are not necessary for this week's meal preparation. Please note that I shop...and menu plan...for two weeks at a time. Fewer trips to the store means less impulse purchases. Everyone thinks they can run into the store real quick for a lemon and some baby wipes....but likely come out with a bag full of items. Force yourself to make fewer trips to the store. Your budget will thank you.

Overall I spent $181.59 , which means we spent approximately 90 dollars to feed our family for a week. If you looked at the list, you will notice that other necessities of life were included, such as cleaning supplies, diapers, and toiletry items. We include these in our grocery bill budget and attempt to get the lowest price on these items as well.

Some important notes about this week are:

* I am able to use previously purchased meat for two of the meals this week. I do follow sale trends and attempt to stock up on meats when they go on sale. However, I do not have a large freezer (and am not very interested in purchasing one) so my meat stockpile is relatively small. At this time we typically do not buy organic meat because the prices are still incredibly high. I do buy fresh meat that has not been previously frozen, attempting to go for very lean cuts. Watch those sale ads for reduced prices on quality meats. Again, your budget (and your husband) will thank you.

*We only purchase organic milk, yogurt, and cheese (when available....why is organic cheese not very popular yet?). I do not feel comfortable with my children drinking/eating large quantities of dairy that are not organic and that contain growth hormones. Our favorite brand of organic milk is Horizon. Our favorite brand of yogurt is Stoneyfield Farms. To us, these are worth the few extra dollars.

*I vary when buying organic produce. Anything that comes inside a peel (bananas, oranges, etc.) that you do not eat, does not need to be organic. Also, in warmer months we visit Farmers Markets because prices (and produce) are much better.

*I feel like often times articles that cover feeding a family on a budget generally over-look breakfast and dinner. Sure, I can feed my family for under a $100 a week if just budgeting for supper. Take a look here to see what typical breakfasts and lunches look like at casa de phillips. Again, such items are included in our budget.

As the week goes along, I will let you know if I had to make any side trips to the store for forgotten items and how much we spent. Make sure you check back at the beginning of next week to see our menu for those seven days and get an update!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A New Adventure

While an eager college student, I believe my grocery "budget" was about $20 a week.

I was quite the adult, walking around United Grocery Store throwing such sophisticated items in my cart such as low-fat peanut butter and chocolate cookies, Marshmallow Rice Krispies (available only at the Judge Ely United location....which should have warned me), Diet Coke, coffee, Club crackers, and perhaps a bag of frozen chicken if I was feeling healthy.

Don't worry if such a menu sounds a bit lacking in the nutrition was well-supplemented with a steady diet of Whattaburger taquitos, Sonic Route 44's, and Chick-fil-A nuggets.

These days, our grocery budget is a bit higher than my former $20 expenditures. Feeding a family of four can be difficult if one wants to eat a healthy diet, dine at home, and not feel the need to donate plasma on a regular basis in order to pay the bills.

This food crunch has prompted me to invite you, dear reader, on a journey as I track our food spending here at casa de phillips via my blog for four weeks. During this journey, I am going to take a look at several questions:

*Can a family of four eat for $100 a week....accounting for (almost) all meals (Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks), using healthy ingredients?

*Will I have to give up some brands previously loyal to in order to stay within my budget?

*How much can I save each week by clipping coupons?

*How much of my time will I have to devote to getting the best deals on food? Is making various trips to different supermarkets worth a $15 savings?

Come along and take a walk with me as I attempt to answer these questions and others as I explore the topic of feeding one's family on a budget. I will be sharing exactly what I buy, what I am making for my family that week, and how much I spent. As a bit of a teaser, I have already done my shopping for this week, I am almost $20 under-budget, and I was able to purchase such things as organic milk and fresh salmon.

Just enough money left-over for a 11pm taquito run if I feel the need to channel my 22 year old self.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Here at casa de phillips we learned a valuable parenting lesson today:

One should preview any video on YouTube regarding pinatas before showing said video to one's child in hopes of better explaining this time-honored party tradition.
Isaac and Evelyn were all set to attend the fourth birthday of their beloved friend, Morgan, this afternoon. I knew there was going to be a pinata at the party, a fun birthday game that Isaac has yet to experience. I attempted to explain hitting open a pinata and the rush for candy, but Isaac simply looked at me with a blank expression. I then sent him back to search for his father and ask him to find videos of pinata-busting on the Internet. (Because what good is having a child with someone if you cannot send the child to your spouse when you run out of answers...or are feeling too lazy to provide an answer)

Tobe found a few videos that appeared to be child-friendly and he and Isaac began watching them.

In the first video, children swung madly at a paper donkey, everybody cheering when the father finally broke the pinata open and candy spilled everywhere.

The second video showed a group of elementary aged children circled around a boy about to bust open the pinata. The dad (who appeared to be videoing this whole experienced) was encouraging the boy to hit the pinata hard.

The boy did.

And the pinata proceeded to EXPLODE.

The video shows an explosion (obviously edited in) and then goes back to the scene of children, who are all now laying on the ground as if the explosion has injured them. One child is even screaming, "My leg! My leg!"

Not exactly the tutorial on how a pinata works at a party that we were looking for (*).

Despite this "interesting" video, Isaac was pumped for taking a turn at whacking the pinata and did fairly well. He did incredibly well in leading the children to begin chanting, "Candy! Candy!" as they waited for the pinata to be broken by an adult. Evelyn even got in on the action, scooping up candy as fast as she could regardless of the fact she does not even like candy.

Good times.
Taking a swing....sorry Hello Kitty
The Loot....3/4 of which will "disappear" before tomorrow morning
E. with her candy

Could little girls' clothes be any more fun?

** Please note that although the video was "interesting" it was in no way damaging to the psyche of our 3.5 year old. We later figured out (after watching the video several is pretty funny) that the video was a commercial for a type of bat.

***Can you tell playoff football is on...thus I am blogging on a Saturday night? After this, it is on to coupon clipping. It is nothing if not glamorous here at casa de phillips.

Friday, January 09, 2009


ah, home.

It is a good place to be.

The ol family car wheeled into the drive of casa de phillips a little after 1pm this afternoon. We were within minutes of pure mutiny in the backseat, so it is a good thing we arrived home when we did.

Fortunately I have a fantastic mother who made the voyage with us, willing to fly herself back to Arkansas tomorrow. The great thing about traveling with my mother is A. Six+ hours to catch up on all the things we have yet to discuss in our week together B. She is the snack/entertainment/answer-to-every-question Queen while I drive (usually my role when Tobe is driving) and C. Our one stop is conveniently made at a Starbucks.

After running around re-discovering their toys and a long 45 minutes of various levels of protests (and a rousing joint version of the "Peanut Butter and Jelly" song....which was a bit remarkable considering both kids sleep in separate rooms) the kids finally dosed off to sleep for a late afternoon nap. I keep twitching my nose "Bewitched" style in hopes the suitcases will unpack themselves. Nothing has happened other than I have sneezed quite a few times. Oh well. It was worth the try.

It is good to be back home, the holidays behind us, and hopefully a normal routine lurking in our very near future.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Return to Casa de Phillips

Tomorrow morning, bright and early (actually waaaaay before "bright" can be used to describe the morning sky) we are setting off to return to casa de phillips.

Although incredibly eager about seeing Tobe, I am always a bit sad to leave home.

It is nice to have a hometown to return to, a place full of memories and numerous experiences to share with my children (they can already correctly identify my old elementary school). It is nice to be able to see people I know around every corner, nice to be recognized when just running into the local Wal-Mart to grab a few necessities. I have officially been gone from home for almost 14 years, so it is beyond nice to run into former acquaintances who don't quite recognize me at first and then comment on how I have grown up quite nicely ( One can only improve on mall bangs, dear reader. In fact, a acquaintance from school waited on me at a store today and had no idea who I was or that we have known each other for years....perhaps if I had been wearing jeans and converse sneakers as opposed to tailored pants she might have clued into who I am. Alas. I am sure we will catch up at the 20 year reunion.).

Although I feel like I am living in some sort of Bon Jovi song while spending time at home (I mean that in a good, sentimental way), it is time to return to casa de phillips. The children are showing signs of needing to return to a normal schedule: Isaac was awake for 2 hours last night due to a dream about being denied bread. It wasn't pretty. Evelyn has consumed a large quantity of french fries, so much so her poor little cholesterol level might be increasing as I type. We need to return home so Tobe can end his steady diet of Taco Bueno. And we really need to return home so Tobe and I can remove the Christmas lights still strung on our house before neighbors start to talk.

Let's pray the trip tomorrow is uneventful, the goldfish supply plentiful, and the packed toys totally enthralling. Or that 6+ hours goes by at warp speed.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Healthy 2009

I am currently sitting on my parents' couch watching the new season of "Biggest Loser", contemplating eating some ice cream in the fridge. It is Weight Watcher's ice cream, so really I should not feel guilty at all about eating it while Bob and Jillian yell at people to run faster and jump higher.

As we enjoy this new season of weight loss reality (one of the few quality reality programs out least it is making a difference), our minds have been bombarded with commercial after commercial about healthy eating and quality lifestyle choices.

Hello, January. Thanks for bringing a ray of positivity with you. We'll all need that by May when resolutions have been discarded and goals forgotten.

My question to you, as I view a 400+ pound teenager on television and wonder how a child gets to that point,: how do you plan to create a healthy family in 2009? Perhaps you already have established a healthy environment in your household. If so, how do you plan to maintain it?

What are your tips/tricks/rules/etc to have a healthy family?

Here at casa de phillips, we let our children consume large quantities of cake.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Wedding Recovery

Despite the fact that the time is just a few minutes past 9pm, my parents' house is currently dark and silent. Everyone is tucked into bed for the evening, ready for a long night's sleep.

Yesterday was my baby brother's wedding and we are in full recovery mode over here.

The wedding was beautiful, the kids were well-behaved (they only attended the reception because my nerves could not handle them sitting on the front row next to me), and the cake was delicious (Isaac consumed three idea that seemed okay at the time and then quickly turned on us once the sugar high left).

I think we might recover from this grand event by Wednesday, just in time to welcome the newlyweds home from their honeymoon (and hopefully watch them open the pile of presents stacked on my parents' dining room table....I am dying to know the contents of these lovely packages).

Because of this post-wedding fatigue, stories from the weekend will have to wait (for example, how a person asked me if I was pregnant while reaching out to touch my stomach. Seriously??). Until then, enjoy some pictures of my children's favorite part of the wedding: tossing of the rose petals. We have reenacted this scenario several times since yesterday afternoon. Who needs expensive, educational toys when one can play with collected, dirty rose petals?

Thursday, January 01, 2009